The early stages of the season are often used for experimentation but Brian Flanagan’s new role in the forward line had many scratching their heads.
The Johnstownbridge man, who turns 28 on Friday, is many things but he would be the first to admit that scoring aren’t high on his list of his abilities. While Flanagan may wear the number ten jersey, he is a long way from the traditional wing-forward.
His job now is to plug the gaps when the likes of Emmet Bolton and Ollie Lyons burst forward. Ideally, centre-back Mikey Conway is to be left as a sweeper in front of the full-back line without a man to mark so again, Flanagan is there to help out.
“Kieran’s not expecting me to be coming out with 1-5, 1-6 in a game,” said Flangan. “If I score it’s a bonus. I did get one tonight but that is probably it for the league now! It’s very much a defensive role, giving Mikey (Conway) a dig out in the half-back line, covering for Emmet (Bolton) when he attacks or whoever is wing-back on the other side. They are given a licence to attack and we try to work it between us.” It’s not the first time that this experiment has been tried. Flanagan featured intermittently on the wing during 2011 but back then he looked like a defender. Now, he seems to have a defined role, which is helping to bring his talents to the fore. Nobody likes scrapping for the dirty ball better than Flanagan, and few do it better. His powerful physique and determined attitude make him the ideal man to pick up the loose ball around and he also seems to have accepted his limitations when distributing the ball. Keeping it nice and simple is working for Flanagan and Kildare.
“Mikey pulls the strings there at number six, he tells you where he wants you and how many he wants back, we just listen to him, he is a loud voice on the pitch, you hear him no matter where you are,” said Flanagan.
His workrate and ball-winning ability around the middle third have always marked him out as a favourite of McGeeney’s but the last couple of years have brought about a lot of frustration as he sat out the big games on the sideline.
There is a new hunger to Flanagan this year though and while the young stars will grab the headlines for their exceptional displays, Flanagan continues to go about his job in an understated way.
Having said that, he is enjoying playing alongside the likes of Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn at the moment and he feels that they have brought a new impetus into the squad.
“We’re delighted with the young lads who are on the team at the minute. The way they stood up, they are very mature in the way that they handle these things. Setbacks don’t effect them on the field, they just get on with it and try to get the next ball, the next score. They have the right attitude, we’re delighted,” he said.
“They are brave men, they just get stuck in. They are fearless really, as most 18, 19-year-olds are. It’s great, and the panel is enjoying having them in the squad,” added Flanagan, who scored just his ninth point in his 53rd league and championship appearance against Donegal.
He did lay down a warning though that Kildare can’t be as slow out of the blocks when they face Cork in Pairc Uí Rinn this Saturday evening.
“It probably took us five or ten minutes to get into the game and that might have been a hangover from last wee. The legs might have been a bit tired. It’s something we might have to look at for next week because Donegal aren’t firing on all cylinders, whereas if we start like that down in Cork next week the game could be over by half time.
“Next week will be very tough. Donegal is over, two points in the bag, it’s all about getting ready for Saturday night now.”